A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
by Steve West
Editor’s Note: Most of our readers will already be at least somewhat acquainted with John Owen (1616-1683), “the prince of Puritans,” but it is not likely that many have read him extensively. His works are not only voluminous – they are tightly packed and deeply considered. Owen is neither quick nor light reading!
Today we continue our year-long series of summaries of Owen’s famous works. We trust these will be of help in introducing and/or increasing your acquaintance with this giant Puritan theologian.
Summary, Part 2
The Causes, Ways, and Means of Understanding the Mind of God as Revealed in His Word, with Assurance Therein; and A Declaration of the Perspicuity of the Scriptures, with the External Means of the Interpretation of Them
Chapters I & II
Two vital, life-giving springs of water for the Christian are the beliefs that the Scriptures are the word of God, and that God’s mind and will are made clear in them. Rome has tried to seize control of both of these springs, for the former insisting that it is by the authority of the church that we accept the Scriptures, and for the latter by declaring that their interpretation and teaching is authoritative over everyone else. Although believers are to use the ministry of the church and hear instruction, the Scriptures alone are infallible and authoritative. Every believer can use the ordinary means God has ordained to find in the Scriptures assurance of his mind and will so that they avoid darkness and live in the light. It is the particular work of the Holy Spirit to give us spiritual wisdom, insight, and light so that we can know the truths of God’s word. The Spirit leads us according to reason and our mind’s understanding, not by ecstatic enthusiasm or special, individual revelations.
The whole argument is found in Psalm 119:18 “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” Our discerning of truth in God’s word is not from ourselves, but from him. In God’s word that are wonderful things (i.e. great, high, and hidden), that go beyond our natural abilities to grasp. Notice that these wonderful things are found only in God’s word; that it is our duty to understand them, and; we can only understand them through divine assistance. This means that it is our duty to pray for the Spirit’s help. That this applies not only to the Old Testament dispensation but also to the new is seen in 2 Cor. 3:13-18. There is a veil that covers every sinful heart, and it is only removed in Christ. The opening of our understanding is a real act of internal grace. See also Eph. 1:17-19, where we are told to pray for this work of the Spirit, where he reveals to us not new mysteries, but the truths of God’s word. Paul prays that we might understand and know those spiritual things which the natural man cannot receive. If we can fully discern the mind of God in our depraved state, there is no need for grace. Paul prays for the “Spirit of wisdom” since in his nature he is perfectly wise, we cannot be wise and understanding without his ministry. Nothing sets us so far from the Spirit as a conceit in our own wisdom and ability without him. . . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
Buy the books
THE WORKS OF JOHN OWEN, VOLUME 4: THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT